The University of Illinois Springfield Survey Research Office has released the results of the 2021 Sangamon County Citizen Survey. The survey is funded by the United Way of Central Illinois, the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln and the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership.
The survey aims to establish benchmarks and evaluate changes in residents’ assessments of quality of life in Sangamon County. In addition to responses to recurring questions, the survey solicits public opinion on topical issues affecting the county.
The survey found respondents are split on whether or not they think Sangamon County is headed in the right direction. A total of 50% of respondents agreed the county is headed in the right direction, with 50% disagreeing. The response is similar to the attitudes found in the 2019 survey.
Additionally, the survey found that 58% of respondents have considered moving out of Sangamon County in the past year. While a majority have considered moving, the survey finds far less have taken meaningful steps to do so (19% of those who have considered moving have applied for a job in a new location, while 6% have filled out paperwork to buy or rent a house elsewhere).
“While 59% of respondents who have considered moving have thought only about moving out of Illinois, another 34% thought about moving out of Illinois or Sangamon County, with 7% only thinking about moving out of Sangamon County, but staying in Illinois”, said A.J. Simmons, Ph.D., research director of the UIS Institute for Legal, Legislative and Policy Studies. “While half of respondents used a negative phrase to describe Sangamon County currently, nearly three-quarters (74%) use a positive word when asked about the future of Sangamon County.”
“It’s disappointing to see so many respondents to the survey considering moving out of the area and I hope it speaks to elected officials and those in leadership to make every effort to improve the quality of living for our residents,” said John Kelker, president and chief professional officer of the United Way of Central Illinois.
Quality of Life in Sangamon County
Respondents were asked to rate their quality of life in Sangamon County on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest. A majority (54%) of those surveyed ranked their quality of life between 5 to 7. A higher percentage reported their physical and mental health was not good, compared to 2019 survey results. While respondents reporting at least one bad day of physical health in 2021 (45%) was similar to 2019 (39%), mental health was higher in 2021 (56%) compared to 2019 (41%).
“I think we’re seeing in this survey what other research has found, the pandemic has been rough for people’s mental health,” Simmons said.
Women (63%) were much more likely than men (50%) to report having at least one day of poor mental health in the previous 30 days. In comparison, their reported rates of at least one day of poor physical health were similar, women (48%) and men (43%).
Trust in Sangamon County
The 2021 survey also asked Sangamon County residents several questions about trust. When asked if most people can be trusted, 44% of respondents agree with that statement, compared to 47% in 2019. When asked if they would report having a “great deal” of trust in the local police, 54% agreed, down for 61% in 2019. Respondents who are white (56%), male (63%), have a household income over $100,000 (72%), and those 65 and older (68%) are more likely than others in their comparison groups to report having a great deal of trust in the local police.
“Whether it be trust and confidence in local leadership or our fellow citizens, it’s important to work together when looking to improve our community,” said John Stremsterfer, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “The projects set forth in The Next 10 call for collaboration, coordination and confidence in one another to get things done.”
Sponsored by the Community Foundation, the Next 10 is a collaborative community engagement effort for the greater Springfield-area to help define how to take bold steps together for the region’s future. The Next 10 gathers ideas big and small from local citizens through a variety of virtual engagement tools and conversations.
Sangamon County Economy and Careers
On the local economy, 87% of Sangamon County Citizen Survey respondents are concerned about the financial impact of COVID-19 on local businesses. Plus, just over half (52%) report that local economic conditions are worse now than they were a year ago. However, about three-fourths (73%) of respondents say they’re more likely to support or shop at local businesses than before the pandemic. In addition to supporting and shopping at local businesses, Sangamon County residents are utilizing resources offered in the community to start and grow their own local businesses.
“Compared to 2019, Innovate Springfield members reported a 115% increase in the number of jobs created and a 256% increase in gross revenues generated in 2020. Innovate Springfield is also growing. In fact, just under a quarter of all applications to become a member that we’ve had in our history have come in 2021,” said Sarah Beth Ayers, director for business incubation at Innovate Springfield, which is part of the University of Illinois Springfield.
On the topic of careers in Sangamon County, respondents report not having connections (90%), not having a college degree (80%), having a perceived disability (74%) and being a person of color (70%) as the most commonly cited barriers to career success. A total of 61% of respondents also agree that being a member of the LBGTQ+ community is a barrier to career success, with 98% of respondents who identify as LGBTQ+ agreeing with that statement.
Confidence in Elected Leaders
On the topic of confidence in local elected leaders, 49% of Sangamon County residents reported being confident that local elected leaders can effectively address local problems, while only 34% of Sangamon County residents reported having confidence in state and federal leaders to address problems. While just over a third of respondents report having confidence in the state and federal government, this is the third iteration in a row that confidence in those two levels of government have increased. Respondents are most confident in local unelected community leaders.
The survey was conducted from June 4, 2021 to July 9, 2021 via mail questionnaire, with the option to take the survey online. The sample is an address-based sample mailed to 10,000 households in Sangamon County. A total of 726 questionnaires were completed during the fielding period (643 via mail; 83 via the web using the online Qualtrics Research Suite).
Read the Full Survey
The full Sangamon County Citizen Survey is available on the Institute’s website at uis.edu/illaps. For general questions and media interviews, please contact Molly Lamb, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for State Policy and Leadership, at 217-206-8622 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Technical questions about the survey may be directed to A.J. Simmons, Ph.D., research director of the UIS Institute for Legal, Legislative and Policy Studies, at 217-206-8109 or email@example.com.